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Perez lobs himself to semifinals of ITA Regional

Here’s one way to catch the Grinnell admission director’s attention—be the number four seed at tennis in the country and win the National Tournament at age 16. Juan Carlos Perez ’11 made a slam in the Ecuadorian tennis world and came to Grinnell the following year. He has been on the tennis team ever since then and has been the captain for the last two years.

Juan Carlos
Juan Carlos Perez '11 qualified for the NCAA national singles tournament in both 2009 and 2010 and was the first Grinnell singles player to be named an All-American Athlete, signifying that he ranks in the top 20 men's tennis players in the country - Aaron Barker

Most recently, Perez reached the semifinals at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional Championships. Perez reached the semifinals in his second year as well.

“[At the tournament], the only thing you want to see is your name and being able to play the next morning,” Perez said. “In the papers, I was supposed to be the one to win it because I was the number one seed. But my personal goal was to reach the semifinals, so my main goal was accomplished.”

Perez lost 2-1 in the semifinals to Byron Balkin of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

As was made evident by the tournament, Perez is not perfect, but he has great numbers and the accomplishments to show for it.

He is a two-time national qualifier and finished as the fifth ranked player in the Central Region. He was named to the All-America squad as the 20th qualifier this summer. Perez is just the third player in Pioneer history to earn All-America recognition in the modern era, following Dan LaFountaine ’09 and Nate Fox ’09.

To Perez, however, these accomplishments do not matter as much as playing with this teammates and playing for Head Coach Andy Hamilton.

“I’m extremely glad I play for [Coach Hamilton] because I could have gone to other schools,” Perez said. “Also, the way the members support each other is unbelievable.”

Perez’s modesty motivates his teammates to push themselves to the next level.

“Juan’s a good leader by example,” said Ishan Bhadkamkar ’13. “He makes sure that everyone can compete at a high level and have a good time. He definitely brings seriousness to the team as well.”

Hamilton agrees that Perez plays a significant role for the team.

“There’s no doubt that I am a better coach from experiencing Juan,” Hamilton said. “I have been challenged to learn more about the game so that I can keep pace with his level of play. I’ve been coaching for 14 years and he is the most talented tennis player on the campus in the 30 years that I have been associated with Grinnell.”

According to Hamilton, Perez’s mental toughness on the court is the greatest factor in his success.

“He’s a quiet competitor. He doesn’t let his opponent see frustration which is a great sign in tennis. I think that carries him to some success.”

Despite receiving such high praise from his coach and his teammates, Perez believes he still has a long way to go.
“There’s always a room for improvement,” he said. “I’m not going to be satisfied with what I have achieved so far.”
As the Pioneers wait for the spring season, Hamilton has high expectation for Perez.

“What I’m most excited about Juan and what I’m expecting from him is the chance to lead our team to highest ranking we’ve ever gotten to,” Hamilton said. “When I evaluate other teams in the region and our schedule, I think we have a chance to achieve at the highest level.”

As for Perez, he wants to have some fun playing tennis during his last year at Grinnell.

“Friendship is the most valuable thing I’m going to get from Grinnell, not winning the matches. At the end of the day, seeing the Grinnell name with your name on it is just incredible.”

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